The Most Important Reasons Why “Live and Learn” is Keeping You Stuck

There are a lot of old sayings that I have heard my whole life that I am working on unlearning. A few that come to mind are, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, big boys don’t cry, and live and learn.” We could debate and could write about why each of these doesn’t fit in today’s world but for today I want to tackle only the last one. 

Live and learn. It seems like an innocuous and mundane enough statement that it’s hardly worth consideration. So why am I asking you to not ignore it? Because I think it is a major cause for you and me, and many other people we know, to stay stuck in the same ruts day after day and year after year. “Why?” You may think. Because it gives us an excuse to stay where we are And as Peter Shilton says, “If you stand still, there is only one way to go and that is backward.”  It doesn’t have to be that way. Keep reading.

To me, when someone says to live and learn they are making an excuse for why something other than the best happened. To say the same thing a different way, here is what I believe the hidden message behind this statement is: “Oh well, I tried. Too bad it didn’t work out, but I’ll try harder next time.” WRONG! My friend, I believe you, I, and we can and should do better.  

The problems with accepting this mindset are several if not many. First, we are saying to ourselves that we can’t do better and get better and that most things happen TO us and not FOR us. Next, it’s a mental shrug of the shoulders and a verbal “oh well” that has long-term subconscious repercussions. And finally, it accepts failure without trying to do anything about it.

I want to encourage you to do better and be better. And it is not difficult to do. It simply requires self-awareness, mindfulness, and a positive attitude. It requires you to view failure as an event rather than a person, as the great Zig Ziglar said. Most importantly, I want to mentor you to learn from the past but not to live in it.

You see, if you’re like me, it’s easy to dwell on past failures and wish we would have done or said things differently or made a greater and more concentrated effort to do our best. Thinking about these things in and of itself is not harmful, but dwelling on them and not learning from them over time can do a great deal of damage. This is why it is so critical to develop the mindset of gaining control of your failures rather than becoming a victim of them. 

Here is what I believe: Your failures of the past only control your future results to the degree that you allow them to remain in the present. I like that so much, I just shared it on social media! Your tomorrow begins today and it begins by learning from past mistakes and resolving to not allow those to control your future, but rather to make you better today, which over time will make you unstoppable in the future. The result will be that instead of reluctantly living and learning, we can from heretofore resolve to confidently say, “Live and Learn – and get smarter every day!”

Here is the simplest and easiest way I know to make past failures work in your favor for the future. Michael Hyatt calls it an after-action review. I believe he borrowed it from the military. Depending on the scope and scale of the situation, this can be done by yourself in a journal or on a tablet, or as part of a team or family meeting to involve everyone involved in the event. There are four simple steps and/or questions to ask. The questions are simple but don’t move off of them too quickly because this is where the future results begin to change. Here they are: 

  • What did I/we do well?
  • What did I/we do poorly?
  • What do I/we need to keep doing (better)?
  • What do I/we need to stop doing?

I promise you if you will make this a part of your self-evaluation beginning today, you will never be stuck again. You will be forever moving forward and will have no reason to dwell on the past ever again except to use it as a wise teacher who shows you how to be and do better every day. Why would you wait another day to start? Your future is waiting.

Did you enjoy this article? If you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe to this blog, where I post every Tuesday. You can also get additional free content by subscribing to my YouTube channel or following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

I also invite you to review my coaching page on my website here. I have only a couple of spots left in my Personal Development Coaching Practice. Each week I offer two free strategy sessions on a first-come, first-served basis to people interested in exploring how to become a person who pursues their goals and dreams. These special hour-long sessions prove again and again to be invaluable to those who participate. You can book these directly on my coaching page – I look forward to serving you.

Serving to Lead or Leading to Serve – The One Thing Everyone Needs

Recently, through my own personal study and reading, as well as my involvement with charitable and philanthropic organizations I have been studying the concept and principles of Servant Leadership. The good news for you and me is that nothing has changed here. The same principles that applied through generations of different leaders are still true today.

What is new to me, as I relearn these principles, is how appropriate and time-tested they truly are. Moreover, the one major component of developing, building, and maintaining servant leadership that is so needed in our world today is one simple, yet elusive characteristic. When you read it, your tendency will be to roll your eyes or scoff and move on to the next thing. But, I challenge you to hang in with me to the end of this post. If you’re like me, you will derive great value from reengaging with this quality.

Painful Situations: Exposing Your Weakness or Growing Your Strength?

As we begin a New Year, I hope that, as I do, you feel a sense of hope and opportunity to start anew. Sure, the fact that we have turned the page in 2021 and opened the book in 2022 doesn’t change many things that happened and are still valid from the past year. But at the beginning of a new year, I hope you develop the mindset of thinking about infinite possibilities instead of limiting beliefs.

I also want to say that possibilities, opportunities, and real growth do not come easily. It likely will take a great deal of effort. And this is where often the people who make progress get separated from the people who are progressively stuck in the same ruts year after year. As always, it is a subtle difference but with considerable differences in outcomes.

Review Your Yesterdays to Motivate Your Tomorrows – Which Makes Every Day a Winner

Depending on when you are reading this, I am writing it as another year comes to a close and a New Year dawns. I tend to get very reflective at the end of the year. Perhaps even a bit melancholy. When I think about 2021, however, I am primarily happy and satisfied. Why? Because I see the growth I have experienced in myself by pushing myself to become better in just about every area of my life. 

Let me issue a caveat and a word of warning straight away. This growth was not automatic, instant, or easy. In fact, if I were to go back and relive some of the days, weeks, and months, they were harder than heck and there were plenty of times I was ready to quit. I’m so glad I didn’t. Because while doing what was hard, I discovered what was possible. I can do a lot more than I give myself credit for. And so can you.

Do you think before you act? Getting control of your subconscious mind

How many times have you done something (nor not done something) and said to yourself, or even out loud, “I can’t believe I just did that!” If I were to rephrase the question to myself humbly, I would have to start the question with, how many times each day? But that’s just me. I am sure that never happens to you.

Research tells us that our minds have somewhere around 6,000 thoughts per day. I have a gift for asking my wife to add a few more related to me each day. That usually goes over really well. Jokes aside, thank goodness that many, no most, of the thoughts we have each day we are not even aware of. If we had to keep up with 6,000 thoughts, imagine how much more tired you would be every night! Fortunately, our subconscious mind works overtime, so we don’t have to. 

Let me share an example of what I mean. If you go to an office every day or have a store, shop, or restaurant frequently, how many times have you been driving to that place lost in thought about all kinds of things? You weren’t paying attention to where you were going, your speed, or anything else. You may have arrived there with almost no memory of anything during the drive. Your subconscious mind took over and led you there without effort.

In many ways, this can be a good thing. Why? Because you don’t have to expend energy thinking about what you are doing. You get in your car, and your subconscious mind takes over and leads you to the place that you’ve been hundreds of times before. This frees you up to think about the people you might be meeting there, the things you’re going to do once you arrive, or any other task on your mind. 

The exciting thing is when your subconscious mind leads you to repeat behaviors or attitudes that are not helpful and work against you; then it’s time to bring those thoughts under control. Again, let me illustrate my point with a couple of examples that hopefully will help you identify areas in your own life where you need to evaluate yourself.

I have a habit of becoming very defensive anytime someone disagrees with me or suggests I may be off base. I’m not too fond of this about myself, but unfortunately, for reasons I don’t even understand, it is a behavior I adopted over the years. I have had to work diligently on myself (with the help of a couple of trusted advisors in my life) to learn to respond rather than react when I face a challenging conversation. I won’t get into the minutiae of the thoughts and behaviors, but now I can often pause, take a deep breath, and gather my thoughts before reacting, which generally comes as anger, dismissiveness, or worse. 

Also, I used to drive like I was in a NASCAR race no matter where I was going. Worse still, in addition to driving at high rates of speed, I could easily be provoked to road rage and doing and saying things that were not part of my core values. I recently learned to slow down, relax, and enjoy listening to music or podcasts that inspire me while driving. I am a much nicer guy behind the wheel now. 

These are a couple of examples of things I have identified as subconscious behaviors that are destructive to who I want and aspire to be. I have had to go through a process of self-awareness and self-discovery to get to this place, but it has been well worth the effort. Are there things in your life that you have been holding onto or doing without thinking for way too long? Are they the source of walls you have built up with those closest to you? I am sure that all of us have at least one thing that we, and those closest to us, would like us to change. 

To get you to commit to training versus trying, l offer the following suggestions. You’ve wanted to do many things in the past but trying harder, rushing through things, and working longer is not the answer. I can’t give you a hard and fast solution that for sure will apply to you. Nonetheless, try to implement these ideas, and you will begin to find the answers for yourself.

First, make commitments to yourself. Schedule time, do it consistently and find someone to hold you accountable. Commitments trump feelings every time. Next, prepare and commit to the change. Again, thinking about doing something is just a dream. Committing and doing it is where change occurs. Finally, put systems in place and evaluate results. Without a target to shoot for and without guideposts along the way, how will you know if you’re on track? As you evaluate your results, I would further challenge you to ask yourself and/or to share with your coach or accountability partner the tough questions that no one else will. This is where real change begins.

Whether you have developed a bad habit during the pandemic the last couple of years or have behavior that has plagued you for most of your life, stop accepting those behaviors, make a plan to change them, and work on them diligently. I would love to hear from you about the things you are working on and the results. I know you can do great things.

Did you enjoy this article? If you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe to this blog, where I post every Tuesday. You can also get additional free content by subscribing to my YouTube channel or following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

I also invite you to review my coaching page on my website here. I have only a couple of spots left in my Personal Development Coaching Practice. Each week I offer two free strategy sessions on a first-come, first-served basis to people interested in exploring how to become a person who pursues their goals and dreams. These special hour-long sessions prove again and again to be invaluable to those who participate. You can book these directly on my coaching page – I look forward to serving you.

Want to improve your results tomorrow? Make the right choices today.

If you’re anything like me, and since you follow and read my blog, I am assuming you are, the hope and joy of the Holidays also brings another kind of excitement with it. It means that soon we will celebrate a New Year. As you also likely know, I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions but am a huge proponent of setting goals.

Research tells us that a small fraction of society actually sets, writes down, and works on goals consistently. So, while many of you may either be thinking about goals or not, I am willing to bet that you have aspirations, visions, and ideas about who you want to be. Whether you are actively pursuing them or not, the New Year is a great time to evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and what steps to take to bridge the gaps.

How Exploratory Thinking Will Lead You Beyond Your Confirmation Bias

In this post, I want to make you uncomfortable. My hope is by you allowing me to briefly do so, that I will challenge you to go beyond your “default mode” thinking and decision-making framework into a deeper, more reflective response to issues that are important to you and others. 

The uncomfortable part is that you are going to have to allow yourself to look at a particular issue, problem, or challenge from a new and different perspective. The challenge I see with this is that if you’re like me and most other people, you have naturally migrated to vetting ideas and expressing opinions with people who, think, believe, and vote just like you do. How vulnerable are you willing to be to venture over to the other side? In answering that question, you may be surprised how positive the results of all of your actions and interactions become.

Exercising from Strength While Accepting our Limitations and Weakness

Recently, I took an online personality assessment that I have heard a lot about over the years but had never done. As part of a leadership group I am participating in as part of my Rotary Club, I took the Clifton Strengths Finders assessment online to help me identify my Top 5 strengths. I cannot say that what I learned from the assessment was surprising, although I could argue it might be aspirational. The great lessons came in learning how to apply them.

Just like any great study or habit, the difficulty is not in learning it or understanding it. Rather the challenge lies in the implementation of it. We can read volumes of books, listen to multitudes of podcasts, and study the habits of great achievers throughout history. In the end, we will have a wealth of knowledge; however, if we fail to implement any of our learnings, I might argue that you have wasted a great deal of time. If that sounds harsh, stay with me, I believe there is an opportunity for everyone in this week’s message. 

Thriving in the Eye of the Storm – Where Peace and Tranquility Rule

I am quite sure that I do not need to persuade you with this post that storms are brewing all around you. Most of us are well aware of the multiple storms we face in every facet of our lives every day. If you don’t have enough that are affecting you personally, you can certainly find plenty to worry about by consulting almost any form of media or communication. It is true that if it bleeds, it leads, and there is plenty of bloodletting to go around these days.

It is also true that as we have all lived through the past couple of years of societal unrest topped off with a worldwide pandemic, we have all become more stressed, anxious, and unsettled in our lives and minds. The subject of mental health is thankfully being addressed publicly now when for years it was hidden and regarded as something to be avoided and discussed only in private. As with each of my weekly posts, however, I want to give you hope and light on how to combat all of this.

When You’ve Lost Your Sense of Direction, How Do You Find Your GPS?

I took a little hiatus for the last few weeks. It was intentional; however, it lasted longer than I planned for. Why? I’m not sure. I think the simple answer is that life got in the way, and I lost track of time. It’s hard to believe that we are already into October and, therefore, into the last quarter of 2021. How are your 2021 goals and objectives looking? 

If that question evoked a sense of panic or caused some “rumblies in your tumbly,” a Winnie the Pooh would say, I’m here to give you some relief – and some hope. We all lose our way from time to time. The question is not whether or when you will get lost. The question is, how long are you going to stay lost? This may seem like a simple question, but we all are often willing and able to make it more complicated than it needs to be.